It’s hard to play on social media without reading someone’s 100 Days pin, the prize for 100 days of skiing and riding in a single season.
It’s even harder to ask whether the accomplishment is a credit to the owner or a dilettante’s admission of accomplishment, a modern equivalent of an English squire’s meticulous record of foxhunting days. To the outside world, the so-called “real”, we surely seem silly to brag about 100 days spent at a sport that most people don’t understand, or if they don’t understand at all, that they consider like trivial, crazy purpose that guides our lives.
Is it true ? For starters, there are much worse occupations. We could spend 100 days a winter/spring doing nothing but drinking, watching TV, or posting on social media. Worse still, so many days in a legislative session could be spent devising ways to criminalize pregnant women for wanting to end an unplanned or even forced pregnancy. Or one could spend the cold months drafting one of 400 bills aimed at overturning public acceptance of different gender choices or identities. Winter, for some, is the devil’s workshop.
The 100 day pin stands on its own merits, a good – not just a lesser of the evils. The Navajo/Dine tradition urges us to “walk in beauty”, which is to recognize that we are surrounded by inner and outer beauty and that we must recognize it and live accordingly. And the poet John Keats once wrote, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty—it’s all you know or need to know.”
If there’s one sport, except hiking in nature, that can immerse you in beauty, it’s embracing a cold world that instinct says should be avoided. We give a lot to make it happen, be it duct tape or diamonds, conduit cones paying with sacrifice and forbearance, diamondettes with money and travel time.
While bluebird powder days get the most attention in sports brochures, videos and softcore-style media posts, many of us have come to know the beauty found on a day when nature is busy. getting ready for the bluebird with monochromatic cold and fog. and heavy snows that erase the rest of the world and immerse us in the silent memorial of ancient rhythms among the trees that were there before us and will be after we are gone, a fleeting powder without a trace that erases our mark before we can return to see where we were, a loneliness we avoid and refuse to return to dry ground with family, friends or dog and simultaneously yearn for.
Only a churl would deny the magic of immersion in a world that most people regard as something to be avoided simply because society has designated more dignified ways to spend free time: volunteering for the poor, the weary and the crowds huddled together; creating rather than experiencing beauty with our art or our resources; do something about the forces of greed instead of complaining about the latest plutocrat or the vacant buildings left behind by the influx of refugee capital.
The 100 Days pin reflects a purposeful life, the goal of so many philosophers and spiritual guides, answering in the affirmative that we are not here simply to suffer and die, especially when we realize our luck and our privileges and which we share in return. Hopefully the immersion in the beauty of the trails should make us think about how to preserve that beauty and even how to extend it to others. We may not climb Everest and its kin, we may never surf the 60ft, we may not complete Ironman – but the world is a happier place contemplating these possibilities just as we take comfort in knowing that an artist can spend seven years lying on boards to paint a chapel ceiling or write music that will be loved for centuries. The world by proxy is a virtual world and closer and closer to where our descendants will live.
For me, if there’s a strain that comes out of beauty, it’s the reality that others deserve recognition for their own 100-day performance – the person who rides or drives the bus all winter to keep the air a little cleaner, the volunteer who sorts our wrecks and debris into useful categories at the thrift store, the neighbor who cleans the sidewalks we walk past our homes, the cop who knows the difference between criminal behavior and mere poorly expressed exuberance, the owner who refrains from starting the drive-down in hopes of earning a few quick bucks.
We walk among the beauty of people as well as nature, a valid though imperfect goal for which we should always express our gratitude.